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Cardinals-Panthers Wild Card Game is ESPN’s Third Highest-Rated NFL Game Ever

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Eighth Most-Watched Telecast among Viewers, and Ninth Highest-Rated, in Cable TV History

The Saturday afternoon NFL Wild Card game on ESPN – a Carolina Panthers’ 27-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals – ranks as the network’s third highest-rated NFL game ever. It is also the eighth most-viewed telecast among viewers (see chart below), and ninth highest-rated, in cable television history.

The Cardinals-Panthers game – the first NFL Playoff game in ESPN’s 35-year history – averaged a 12.5 household US rating; 14,551,000 households; and 21,678,000 viewers (P2+), according to Nielsen fast nationals. The rating peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with a 13.9 rating and at 24,300,000 viewers from 7-7:15 p.m.

The only NFL games on ESPN to rate higher were Monday Night Football contests – Minnesota-Green Bay (13.2 household rating, 10/5/09) and New Orleans-New England (12.9 rating, 11/30/09).

The Wild Card continued one of ESPN’s most successful weeks in history following record-setting audiences on New Year’s Day for the two inaugural College Football Playoff Semifinal games. In the week ahead, ESPN will continue its presentation of marquee football telecasts with the much-anticipated Oregon-Ohio State College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, January 12.

In Phoenix, the game delivered a 21.6 rating on ESPN and a 7.3 on KASW-CW, for a combined 28.9 rating in the market. In Charlotte, the game delivered a 20.4 rating on ESPN and a 16.3 on WJZY-FOX, for a combined 36.6 rating in the market.

The top 10 metered markets (in addition to those of the competing teams) included: Greensboro (25.8), Las Vegas (19.6), Raleigh-Durham (19.5), Greenville (19.5), Denver (18.5), Seattle (18.3), Richmond (16.9), Baltimore (16.8), Norfolk (16.5) and New Orleans (16.5). Five markets recorded the highest-rated NFL game rating ever on ESPN: Charlotte, Detroit (13.8), Greensboro, Raleigh, and Salt Lake City (11.3).

ESPN’s 17 Monday Night Football telecasts in 2014 averaged an 8.3 US household rating; 9,636,000 households; and 13,349,000 viewers. Release.

Top 10 Most-Viewed Programs in Cable Television History (Viewers):

Rank Date Program Network Viewers (000s)
1. 01/01/2015 CFB/Sugar Bowl: Alabama-Ohio St. ^ ESPN 28,271
2. 01/01/2015 CFB/Rose Bowl: Oregon-Florida St. ^ ESPN 28,164
3. 01/10/2011 CFB/BCS Champ: Oregon-Auburn ESPN 27,316
4. 01/07/2013 CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-Notre Dame ESPN 26,380
5. 01/06/2014 CFB/BCS Champ: Florida St.-Auburn ESPN 25,572
6. 01/09/2012 CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-LSU ESPN 24,214
7. 10/05/2009 NFL MNF: Green Bay-Minnesota ESPN 21,839
8. 01/03/2015 NFL Wild Card: Arizona-Carolina ESPN 21,678
9. 11/30/2009 NFL MNF: New England-New Orleans ESPN 21,402
10. 01/01/2011 CFB/Rose Bowl: TCU-Wisconsin ESPN 20,558

Note: excluding breaking news; live + same day

^ Inaugural College Football Playoff semifinal games

2015 games in bold

ESPN Digital: WatchESPN Posts Second-Highest Audience Ever for an NFL Game

The Arizona-Carolina Wild Card game had a WatchESPN average minute audience of 144,000, the second highest audience ever for an NFL game, behind only the Washington-Dallas game on Oct. 27 (145,000), The game also logged 378,000 unique viewers and 30.8 million total minutes viewed.

The average MNF game this season had a WatchESPN average minute audience of 106,000, 331,000 unique viewers and 21.6 million total minutes viewed – up 64 percent, 81 percent and 68 percent, respectively, compared to the previous season.

ESPN’s MNF Crew to Call NFL Pro Bowl in Arizona to Kickoff Super Bowl XLIX, Jan. 25

ESPN’s Monday Night Football team will conclude its 2014 NFL season on Sunday, January 25 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) with the NFL Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, to kickoff Super Bowl XLIX week.

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